Return of the prickly passer-by

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Last weekend there were still a few Red Admiral butterflies about, feeding on fallen fruit and any suitable late garden flowers.

The rotting fruit was also providing a feast for flies and the last remaining wasps which seemed to stagger around in a sort of drunken stupor.

This year they seem to have been less troublesome than last and I think it’s now safe to say that for the first time in a few years, I have come through the summer without being attacked and stung.

I suppose the poor summer has at least had one benefit!

The fallen fruit is also being enjoyed by the blackbirds, but the ones in my garden still come to the back door begging for sultanas, despite the array of apples on the lawn.

One visitor which I am delighted to welcome back after a lengthy absence is the hedgehog.

A few years ago, rabbits were a problem and I had to make my back garden rabbitproof by making sure there was no way in through the perimeter fence.

Lately, they have declined, so I knocked a small hole about six inches in diameter in the fence at ground level to see if the hedgehog would come back. After a few nights with nothing happening, the dish containing the cat food we put out was emptied. The next night we kept checking it and sure enough at around 9pm, we spotted the hedgehog at the dish, so we knew for definite that it wasn’t a neighbour’s cat and that our prickly pal had returned.

It comes most nights now and particularly enjoys leftover chicken and cat food and uses the water we put out to wash it down.

Now is the time that most hedgehogs are spotted in gardens as they fatten themselves up prior to hibernation.

You too can help them by putting out food regularly and I reiterate my annual warning about bread and milk. Never put it out for hedgehogs as it can be very harmful to their digestive systems. Cheap tinned cat or dog food (particularly chicken flavoured) is fine, along with a dish of water. You can buy special dried hedgehog food at good pet shops, but it usually comes in big bags, is quite expensive, and unless you know for sure that they are coming, it can be wasted.

If, like mine, your garden is completely enclosed by a solid wooden fence, why not consider making a hole big enough to admit hedgehogs? They are beneficial to the garden and they are fantastic and unique creatures which are fascinating just to sit and watch.